The Satan-accuser of the faithful.
The meaning of the name Satan is Adversary. The Hebrew word is derived from a word meaning “one who plots against another.” The word satan means “to show enmity to, oppose, plot against,” and comes from the root, s-t-n, “one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as a slanderer, literally to throw something against another.” In the biblical sense, Satan is the one who stands opposed to God, slanders him and makes accusation against His creation. He is first introduced to us through the talking serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. We will have to make a case for this in a study of the New Testament (NT) since the Old Testament (OT) never calls Eden’s serpent Satan. In another OT place Satan, by formal name, is presented to us in the Book of Job as one who had access to the whole earth and was aware of mankind. God initiates a challenge with Satan concerning the man Job, a good and holy man who loved God and served Him through his family and community. Job is believed to have lived long before the Jews became a nation, probably around 2000 B.C. Job was not a Jew in this respect but is in the pre-Abraham lineage (Abraham being the Father of the Jewish nation). He is presented as more than a good guy. He was a righteous man who feared (held in great honor) God. No one knows who wrote the Book of Job but the Jews adopted the book as scripture.
Satan takes on the challenge of God and twice is granted greater and greater access to bring calamity upon Job. The loss of livelihood and wealth, the loss of his children and the loss of his health are attributed to the activity of Satan. The story of Job teaches us of value of human integrity that springs from a love of God; even through in the worse of tragedies, Job did not sin against God or accuse Him of wrong. Here Satan is presented as one who has knowledge and an agenda against mankind and God. He is given access to bring storm, death and disease, in this case, for the purpose of testing God’s ways in the life of a man who trusted in God. Job is a long read and if you are unfamiliar with the work, Job suffers terribly but is vindicated through his integrity for he never curses God or accuses him with wrong doing. God wins the debate against Satan and against many forms of human philosophy concerning God’s care of man. Satan is not mentioned again in the book after this introduction. But we see his nature is to mock the human condition and given the chance, bring calamity on mankind and his opposition to God’s ways.
In another place, Zechariah chapter 3, a vision and revelation are given to this prophet and also to the priest Joshua, that a Savior was planned who would “…take away sin in a single day.” (Zechariah 3:8-10). But in verse 1 of this chapter Satan stands before God to make accusations against Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3:1-3). An angel rebukes Satan and Joshua is given clean clothes (purified soul) to replace his filthy ones (sins of the flesh) before he is given insight into the Messianic age to come (Christianity). Most likely Joshua had sin in his life by which Satan could accuse him before God (Satan as prosecutor? God is judge?). Joshua was cleansed by God’s action to prepare for the work ahead of him (the Judge is merciful?). This was at a time when the Jews were in Babylonian captivity as penalty to their previous sins of idolatry. The Persian King, having recently conquered the Babylonians, gave the captive Jews release to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Joshua and Zechariah were to prepare the people as God’s chosen and restore them as a nation to genuine spirituality.
This is not the only place Satan is identified as the Accuser. The NT continues the consistency of the OT image of Satan. In the most difficult book called the Revelation to John, Satan is identified as that old serpent (remember the garden Eden) and the accuser of the brethren.
“And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him. And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night. “ Revelation 12:9-10
As we move into the NT, Satan places demands on God to “sift” a sinner like wheat. But at this time, Jesus had prayed for that particular sinner, a man known as Simon Peter. Peter was Jesus’ close friend who, not knowing the future, was about to deny Jesus three times during his trial. Before his arrest and trial, Jesus had forewarned Peter saying, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32). Again, it appears that Satan acts as a prosecutor before God, making accusations against men and their sinful frailties, in this case even before the event occurred. Satan, Jesus, and God knew that Peter would falter (sin) and betray the Christ as Jesus stood trial before the High Priest. God through Jesus’ prayer is prepared to redeem Peter back to His good graces. After his resurrection, Jesus made Peter a leader in the church at Jerusalem.
Satan as the Tempter
Satan is often referred to as the tempter. The serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden has now been shown to be the same demonic personality named the red dragon, the old serpent, the accuser of the brethren and Satan – the adversary of God in the NT (2 Corinthians 11:3, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 20:2). A discussion concerning demons and fallen angels would not be complete without a word or two on the Devil’s greatest weapon – temptation. He appears for the first time in the form of a serpent in the Garden of Eden. (I suppose if evil spirits could inhabit humans why not an animal?). He tempts the woman who then offers the forbidden fruit to the man. Sin came into the world and death came through sin. Man is separated from God. The battle for the souls of human beings had begun.
Satan is not mentioned much in the OT portion of the Bible. We mentioned Job’s troubles and the campaign of Satan to tempt Job. Other than these few places it was not until after Jesus was commissioned by His baptism in water that Satan appears to man in full force. After his baptism, the Spirit drives Jesus to a lonely place in the mountains. Just as the woman was tempted by the simple presentation of the forbidden fruit, in a similar manner Jesus was tempted by the Devil. After 40 days of fasting, Satan tempted Jesus using lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (Matthew 4). Incidentally, you will notice these are the same enticements the “serpent” used on the woman (Genesis 3:6 – make note; lust of the flesh – the tree was good for food, lust of the flesh – it was a delight to the eyes, pride of life-it was desired to make one wise). Jesus was tempted with the lust of the flesh for he was hungry after a 40-day fast. He was tempted to use his power to satisfy his hunger. Satan tempted Christ – “turn this stone into bread”. He was tempted with the lust of the eyes – “I will give you all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”. He was tempted by the pride of life – “if you are the Son of God throw yourself from the temple for the angels will safeguard you lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus passed every temptation, never yielding to Satan and the devil left him.
With our emphasis on Satan here, we learn from these scriptures that he had been given all the kingdoms of the world. They were his to distribute as he chose. We learn that he knew the scriptures and how to twist their meaning. We learn that, failing to entice Jesus to sin, he would be back to tempt Jesus at a more opportune time (Luke 4:13).
Another NT passage, which refers to Satan’s artful skill in temptation, comes from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. As Paul began to answer the questions on human sexuality he makes a point saying that every man and every woman should have their own partner in marriage (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Furthermore, neither partner should deny the other sexual fulfillment, except they agree to abstain for a time to dedicate to prayer and fasting. They were to come together again lest Satan tempt them due to lack of self-control. It should be obvious that Satan understood human passion and the power of sexual attraction in human beings. He also knew the moments of our greatest weaknesses and how to use them.
These few passages and many that discuss temptation typically attribute human temptation to the influence of this evil genius, Satan. But when James wrote of temptation he fairly places the burden of blame where it belonged; on those tempted by their own desires (see James 1:12-14). Satan may have his ways to tempt but the human heart is prone to its own evil desires. In the final analysis temptation comes from within and it seems our animal body greatly weakens our resolve to do what is right.
The Prince of this World and the Battle Against Him
From the most ancient of times we find that Satan had some remarkable attributes and freedoms. He had access to Paradise (the Garden) to tempt Eve so that God might test the first couple’s fidelity to Him. We find in the Book of Job that Satan is adversarial to God and towards mankind; fully aware of human frailty to sin. Paul calls him the prince and power of the air as though even a breath in this world was contaminated by the Adversary’s presence (Ephesians 2:2). Whatever conflicts in this world at that time were often paralleled by conflicts in the spiritual world. By his death Jesus provided rescue to those enslaved by sin (John 8:31-38). Those enslaved by sin were of the devil, sons of the devil (John 8:39-47). In this last passage Jesus calls the devil a murderer from the beginning of the creation; bringing us back to the Garden scene and to the Fall, sin and the problem of death.
To the Jewish intellectuals of Jesus’ day we find that they understood Satan to be the prince of the demons – Beelzebul. When Jesus cast out the demons in those who were possessed, the Jewish leaders accused him of doing so by the prince of demons, Beelzebul. Jesus destroyed their argument when he said, “And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:22-28). In the passage Jesus uses the name Satan interchangeably with Beelzebul –the prince of demons. Furthermore we learn that in casting out demons, Jesus admitted that he had bound the strong man (Beelzebul) and was plundering his house (Matthew 12:29). This is no small matter, for a study of the NT reveals that in His death and subsequent resurrection Jesus not only provided a new and everlasting covenant for all people to have access to eternal life but he conquered Satan, Death and the Grave (Hades – the prison of departed souls). This is one of many revelations that will point to the serpent in the Garden as Satan, the Devil and the great dragon (Revelation 12).
The early disciples were sent out by Christ to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay (Matthew 10:8). They later returned with joy that even the demons were subject to them. To this Jesus replied, “ …I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Luke 10:18-20). Here we see that demons and Satan were inseparably linked. Power over demons was power to bring Satan down even from the heavenly realm.
This prince of demons was also called the god of this world, for Paul taught this to the early disciples. Those who rejected the love of Christ, offered as the good news of the Messianic kingdom, were in Paul’s words, blinded by the god of this world.
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:2-5.
The battle between the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of heaven culminated in Christ’s teaching moral and spiritual truth and in healing of both demoniac and common diseases. Paul continued that battle in order to win the hearts and minds of those who had been snared by Satan; who had been “…captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:22-26. As Jesus prepared to meet the crucifixion he too made it clear that the battle was against Satan. When speaking of the crucifixion Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of the world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:30-32. As Christ promised his disciples comfort he made it clear that what was about to happen (his death) was Satan’s attempt to claim him saying, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me…” John 14:23-31. Satan had no claim on Christ’s life. He was sinless according to the law and no accusation could stand, nevertheless, Jesus’ sacrifice was poised to redeem the human race. His are frightening words when we consider Christ was going to be crucified not just as an innocent man but as a sinless man. This explains why Satan had no claim on him. What did that say about the rest of the human race? Did Satan have a claim on others? The prosecutor was ready to prosecute the guilty. It was by Christ’s death and his resurrection that the ruler of this world was judged John 16:1-11. By his death and resurrection Christ destroyed (spiritual) death for mankind. If the prison of death had bars, Christ had the power to break them. Acts 2:22-24 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. “
Sin, Disease, Damnation: Other Powers of Satan
The NT reveals that many Jews of this time believed that all disease was the result of personal sin. We find from the OT that death (spiritual and physical) came into this human world due to the first man’s disobedience (his sin against God). Since that time it was assumed by many that any disease was the result of sin. In one way this is true since disease and death are integral to our genetics and our world since the fall. A little science note here: It has recently been discovered that the vast majority of genetic diseases in the human genome have occurred in the past 5000 years. It is a broken world. In another way, some bad things are apparently a continued reality of the life we live in the physical world. Helping those weaker than us has become an opportunity for disciples to do good works to the glory of God. When asked concerning one born blind Jesus answered in just these terms, see John 9:1-3. Jesus’ last years on the earth were spent curing disease, epileptics, and paralytics Matt. 24:23-25. He also forgave people of their sin; some who had been caught in sin and others whose disease was a direct result of their sin Matt. 9:1-6.
Nevertheless, it was to Satan that Christ pointed to for the ignorance, unbelief and sin of those who were in positions of power over the Jewish nation of his day. Leaders ought to lead. Sometimes the power they are given hurts everyone below them and their leadership is dangerous and damning. To those leaders of the ancient Jewish nation Jesus called the Devil their father, a murderer from the beginning; pointing to the temptation of the first couple John 8:43-45. It was by removing the law of God that Christ destroyed the one who had the power of death Hebrews 2:13-15 as well as the power of sin to bring death. Note: Romans 6:13-15 “No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. And Romans 7:8 that says, “But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead.”
There is an undeniable association between the law that God gave the Jews to live by and the brutal nature of Justice for violating that law. Brutal from our perspective for we wish God to be made in our image, ignore justice and forgive sin even in the absence of repentance. God’s justice was always in accordance with his holiness and righteous nature; obligating Him to be true to His word. Satan appears repeatedly to be on the side of prosecution, demanding at times to have God’s justice executed on the failures of human choices. Consider again the denial of Christ by Peter. Before that night proved Jesus’ prophecy to be true, he also warned Peter of the proximity of Satan’s demands on him: Luke 22: 31-34 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus[ said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”
We must accept that from the first sin Satan, a murderer from the beginning, had in his control the power of death. He had either failed his God-given oversight of the world or manipulated its theft from God through the temptation of the woman. We don’t know these details. In the temptation of Christ it was clear that Satan was sure that the kingdoms of the world were his to do with as he pleased. He offered all the kingdoms of the world and their glory to Christ in a final temptation. Luke 4: 5 “Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.”” Since this is true, it becomes clear what REDEMPTION means when Christ came into the world. Hebrews 2: 14-16 “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.”
As to Satan’s power to damn anyone this remains to be disclosed through further study of the scriptures. While he had legal precedents and legal right to drag the human soul to its death, he was damned from the beginning by his own arrogant and criminal behavior against God and His creation. Rather, what Jesus made clear to the disciples concerning their ministry to preach and hold fast to salvation was not to fear mortal death. They should carry out their lives in consistent and militant faith. Matthew 10:27-29 “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. You are of more value than many sparrows.” With this fearless optimism the early disciples followed the commission of Christ to change the world.
Those who failed, who fell back or who never let faith grow would be caught in the consummation of the age. The war of the Romans that vindicated Christ’s prophecies of the end of the age resulted in over a million deaths in the city of Jerusalem alone. The bodies of the dead were thrown into the Valley of Hinnom also known as Gehenna. Here the worm did not die and the fire, never quenched. The Jews themselves kept the stench of this garbage pit at bay by keeping the fires burning with pitch and sulfur. Gehenna was the city’s garbage dump. And in God’s just vengeance against His Jewish enemies, through the use of the Roman army He had cast the disobedient, body and soul, into Gehenna.
The Culmination of the Age and Satan’s Demise
While heavy use of metaphor and imagery is used in the Book of Revelation, it is still to be taken at face value by those who have a good understanding of the Jewish use of such imagery, metaphor and hyperbole. Such students see that what was revealed in symbolic terms in the book were real events occurring or about to occur shortly on earth and in the spiritual or heavenly realm.
For instance chapter 12 describes a woman arrayed with the Sun at her head and moon at her feet with twelve stars in her crown. She is Israel and the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream: the nation of Israel and the 12 sons that gave birth to the nation (see Genesis 37:8-10). The woman is pregnant and travails in pain delivering the child. This is the fulfillment of the birth of Christ from the Jewish nation. The seed of the women who would save the world. The child is the promise to Abraham, the king of the Jews, and the son of David as promised to this great King of Israel. Jesus, born of Israel would be savior of the world in the fulfillment the Jewish nation’s ancient prophecies.
The great red dragon appears having seven heads and ten horns and each head had a crown of seven diadems. This is Satan acting through the then present-day Roman Empire. Ten great kings of Rome had or would rule over Israel before its final destruction. Rome sat upon seven hills and ten kings (diadems) would rule over Israel from Julius (the first Caesar and Roman to conquer the Jews) to Vespasian (who destroyed the entire nation of ancient Israel in 70 AD). The Dragon pulled down a third of the stars or hosts of heaven (he is prince of the rebellious angels). He is ready to devour the child but when the women is rescued to the wilderness, the child is caught up to heaven. The woman, God’s faithful people and most likely the remnant of faithful Israel, is spared for 3.5 years. This was the duration of Nero’s war (the horn speaking great blasphemies and the first emperor to demand divine worship as spoken of by Daniel 7:8). The war against the Jews culminated in Vespasian’s total annihilation of the nation, the city Jerusalem and the temple. War breaks out with God’s angelic army battling the dragon and his angels Rev. 12:7.
We should note at this time that Satan is furthermore revealed in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 12) as the prince over the demonic minions. The Jewish leaders and Jesus himself accepted this view. The dragon, the serpent, Satan, the Devil; all one and the same, was cast out of heaven Rev. 12:8. Victory goes to the man-child, Christ, as Satan who spent his heavenly time accusing the righteous before God is cast down. Those who are in kingdom are saved because of the blood of the lamb and their testimony to claim him as Lord even to the point of death. Woe to the earth for the Devil will do his best to destroy men –knowing his time is short. (As we will see in part three of this work, one object of Christ’s mission was to bind the strong man, and plunder his house. Christ’s ministry was to crush the head of Satan; a promise started in the garden, and was soon to be accomplished in the days of this last war of Jews with Rome see Genesis 3:15, Romans 12:17, Matt. 12:27-30). In this passage the Dragon pursues the rest of the offspring of the woman, those who hold the testimony of Jesus (the testimony is that Jesus is the Son of God). These are the disciples of Christ see 1 John 5:10.
During this time, many disciples of Christ were under persecution by both the Jews and the Romans. Peter, in his old age, warned the churches when he wrote just before the destruction of Jerusalem saying, “ Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. Do so in the knowledge that your fellow believers are enduring the same suffering throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:7-9. Clearly, the early followers could be tempted to reject the faith under such persecution and Satan stood ready to accuse (prosecute) the faithless.
In the final installment of this study of demons and the Devil, we will look at the passages that prove that demons have been fully subdued in this age (Messianic age). The Devil has been destroyed. The new age of God’s rule over the hearts of men has been established in the new and everlasting kingdom of the Messiah. This age will never end. While the devil has no longer power to tempt, nothing but accepting the love of God will change the evil desires of the human heart.
Get ready for a surprise… Christ rules for ever and ever over the nations of the earth, through the hearts of men.
Please go to part 1 and part 3 to get the full story.